Thursday, August 17, 2006

Was Failure Part of the Plan?

The New York Times has a long article today about the sharp increase in insurgent attacks against U.S. troops:

The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. The deadliest means of attack, roadside bombs, made up much of that increase. In July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found.

The bomb statistics ... are part of a growing body of data and intelligence analysis about the violence in Iraq that has produced somber public assessments from military commanders, administration officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels," said a senior Defense Department official who agreed to discuss the issue only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for attribution. "The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time."

A separate, classified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, dated Aug. 3, details worsening security conditions inside the country and describes how Iraq risks sliding toward civil war, according to several officials who have read the document or who have received a briefing on its contents.

The nine-page D.I.A. study, titled "Iraq Update," compiles the most recent empirical data on the number of attacks, bombings, murders and other violent acts, as well as diagrams of the groups carrying out insurgent and sectarian attacks, the officials said.

The report's contents are being widely discussed among Pentagon officials, military commanders and, in particular, on Capitol Hill, where concern among senior lawmakers of both parties is growing over a troubling dichotomy: even as Iraq takes important steps toward democracy -- including the election of a permanent government this spring -- the violence has gotten worse.

Andrew Sullivan floats a theory (not his, but he's intrigued by it) based on the last two paragraphs of the Times article. I include the last four paragraphs for context:

Bush administration officials now admit that [the] Iraqi government's original plan to rein in the violence in Baghdad, announced in June, has failed. The Pentagon has decided to rush more American troops into the capital, and the new military operation to restore security there is expected to begin in earnest next month.

Yet some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq's democratically elected government might not survive.

"Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy," said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

"Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect," the expert said, "but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy."

Here is Sullivan's theory:

I have long wondered whether Cheney and Rumsfeld ever believed that their job was to build a new democracy in Iraq. Rumsfeld had dealt with and supported Saddam in the past; Cheney was extremely suspicious of occupying Iraq in 1990. One subversive theory -- which I'm not endorsing, just airing -- is that both merely wanted to turn the Saddam regime to rubble, and then play along with neocon democracy supporters, while making sure that the military was never given enough resources to do nation-building. Then Cheney and Rumsfeld could prove their point about the impossibility of reforming the Muslim world, and promote the view that we need merely to pummel enemies, project military fear across the region, and deter Islamo-fascism by "shock and awe." The Likud strategy, in other words.

Under this interpretation, Bush was too trusting or dumb to understand the deviousness of their plan to fail in Iraq; Wolfowitz saw it too late and got out; Rice is stuck managing the debris that a democracy-promoting president and a democracy-hostile Pentagon created. The troops were just pawns in Cheney's and Rumsfeld's strategy. This interpretation would mean that incompetence is not the issue. Cheney and Rumsfeld have succeeded: they have turned Iraq into a failed state, removed its capacity to make WMDs, and detonated a regional Sunni-Shi'a war. Now they want to use the same brutalist strategy against Iran. This theory is probably too complex and subtle to be true. The screw-up theory of history is more often the most plausible. But it does make some internal sense -- if you assume that Cheney and Rumsfeld are not complete incompetents.

I think it's a given that Cheney and Rumsfeld never cared about democracy or thought their reason for invading Iraq was to create a democracy there. That's not exactly controversial anymore, if it ever was. But neither do I believe they intended from the outset for the democracy project to fail. What I do think is that Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted an Iraq they could control. They wanted an Iraq where the huge threat to U.S. economic and geopolitical interests posed by an all-powerful centralized dictatorship like Saddam Hussein's would be eliminated. I don't think that democracy, to men like Cheney and Rumsfeld, means anti-war speeches, the right to privacy, constitutional protections, or separation of church and state. I think they define democratic governments as those that embrace U.S.-style capitalism, and will support U.S. efforts to promote global markets friendly to American corporate interests. That's what they had in mind when they talked about building a democracy in Iraq. And they thought they could build that kind of "democracy" because they started this war with absolutely no understanding of the history and culture of Iraq, and utterly ignorant of the political, ethnic, or religious alliances in the region. These are men who actually thought that Iraqi Shiites, who had been aligned with Iran for years, would turn against Iran and become pro-American after the U.S. invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In fact, Pres. Bush did not even know what Shiites were, or that there were two distinct Islamic sects in Iraq. They thought they could impose their own Americanized vision on Iraq and did not consider it important or necessary to know anything about the country or the region.

When their fairy tale world crumbled, and the reality of post-Saddam Iraq turned out to be nothing like their fantasy, Cheney and Rumsfeld simply adjusted their criteria for winning. They may have started out wanting a democracy, as they defined it, but since what they really wanted was an Iraq that posed no threat to U.S. economic and strategic interests, they soon realized that the failed-state model was just as much in consonance with U.S. interests as a democracy would have been.

Iraq was never more than a political fiction, cobbled together by Britain after World War I. Now even that fiction is gone. Iraq as a country does not exist anymore, and that is just fine with Cheney and Rumsfeld.


isabelita said...

Here at our house, my husband and I are of different minds on this: I think this administration doesn't care, nor ever did, whether the Iraq invasion succeeded. I think they wanted a presence in the area, so did just enough to destabilize the country. Now the civil war will do the rest of the cleaning out for them. There is a huge military base under construction, yet not enough money being spent to properly protect US soldiers in battle, or pay for their care once wounded and home. There seems to me to be a Katrina-like lack of response by Bush et al.
My husband thinks they tried to do everything on the cheap, really had no plan, and now are doing their hardest to make it all turn to their advantage.
I suppose it could be a blend of both.
We have the luxury of sitting over here in the USA, and debating about what Bush&Co's intent is or was. We're not really suffering chaos. Yet. What seems clear to me is that this admistration has put us and just about the entire world in harm's way. What continues to astound and appall me is their apparent obliviousness to this situation.

SB Gypsy said...

If they really wanted a strong democratic state in Iraq, or any kind of government that was strong enough to survive in that hell hole, they would have let General Garner do what he had all planned and was just about to implement: hiring the Iraqui army immediately after shock and awe to keep the peace and rebuild the country. That he was called home and replaced by Bremmer just before he had time to do any good over there, indicates to me that they did it on purpose, with or without Bushco's permission or even input or interest.

quixote said...

Yeah, this was my more strategically-minded partner's point many moons ago. Bu$hCo wants a fractured Iraq with lots of squabbling minor players, all of whom deal with the US separately and have to sell it oil at any price the hegemon wants. The last bit didn't work, but the first is coming along just fine, thank you. They may succeed beyond their hopes, and cause war in the whole Middle East. That's bound to end in cheap oil. Right?

Kathy said...

Interesting point, about General Garner. I am reading about that very point right now in a book by Peter Galbraith called "The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End."

Galbraith says that Garner wanted Iraqis to have a part in rebuilding their own country; Bremer, on the other hand, wanted to rule the country by himself. He did not want to give Iraqis control over anything.